US 8011083 B2
Replacement of a transducer assembly for an ultrasonic fluid meter. At least some of the illustrative embodiments are methods including: disconnecting a wiring harness that electrically couples electronics of an ultrasonic meter to a transducer assembly; removing the transducer assembly as a single unit from a transducer housing; inserting a replacement transducer assembly as a single unit into the transducer housing; and reconnecting the wiring harness.
1. A method comprising:
disconnecting a wiring harness that electrically couples electronics of an ultrasonic meter to a transducer assembly;
removing the transducer assembly as a single unit from a transducer housing, the transducer housing comprises an acoustic matching layer exposed to the measured fluid, and the acoustic matching layer remains in the transducer housing when the transducer assembly is removed;
inserting a replacement transducer assembly as a single unit into the transducer housing such that the transducer assembly abuts the matching layer, the transducer assembly configured to generate acoustic signals that propagate through the measured fluid;
compressing a biasing member within the replacement transducer assembly, wherein the biasing member biases a first portion of the replacement transducer assembly away from a telescopically coupled second portion of the replacement transducer assembly, and the biasing member at least partially biases a distal end of the replacement transducer assembly towards the acoustic matching layer on a distal end of the transducer housing; and
reconnecting the wiring harness.
2. The method of 1 wherein prior to removing the transducer assembly the method further comprises disengaging a retaining nut that at least partially holds the transducer assembly in the transducer housing.
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This specification claims the benefit of provisional patent application Ser. No. 60/707,814 filed Aug. 12, 2005. This specification also claims the benefit of provisional application Ser. No. 60/710,068 filed Aug. 22, 2005. Each of these applications are incorporated by reference herein as if reproduced in full below. Furthermore, this application is a divisional of application Ser. No. 11/301,140 filed Dec. 12, 2005 titled “Transducer assembly for an ultrasonic meter”, now U.S. Pat. No. 7,307,373, which application is incorporated by reference herein as if reproduced in full below.
1. Field of the Invention
Various embodiments of the invention relate to ultrasonic flow meters.
2. Description of the Related Art
After hydrocarbons have been removed from the ground, the fluid stream (such as crude or natural gas) is transported from place to place via pipelines. It is desirable to know with accuracy the amount of fluid flowing in the stream, and particular accuracy is demanded when the fluid is changing hands, or “custody transfer.” Even where custody transfer is not taking place, however, measurement accuracy is desirable.
Ultrasonic flow meters may be used in situations such as custody transfer. In an ultrasonic flow meter, ultrasonic signals are sent back and forth across the fluid stream to be measured, and based on various characteristics of the ultrasonic signals, a fluid flow may be calculated. Mechanisms which improve the quality of the ultrasonic signals imparted to the fluid may improve measurement accuracy. Moreover, ultrasonic flow meters may be installed in harsh environments, and thus any mechanism to reduce maintenance time, and if possible, improve performance, would be desirable.
The problems noted above are addressed, at least in part, by a transducer housing for an ultrasonic fluid meter. At least some of the illustrative embodiments a transducer housing comprising a housing having a proximal end, a distal end and an internal volume, the housing couples to a spoolpiece of an ultrasonic meter, and an acoustic matching layer that fluidly seals the distal end from the internal volume (wherein the housing accepts a piezoelectric element within the internal volume and proximate to the acoustic matching layer). The acoustic matching layer has an acoustic impedance between that of the piezoelectric element and a fluid within the ultrasonic meter.
For a more detailed description of embodiments of the invention, reference will now be made to the accompanying drawings, wherein:
Certain terms are used throughout the following description and claims to refer to particular system components. This document does not intend to distinguish between components that differ in name but not function.
In the following discussion and in the claims, the terms “including” and “comprising” are used in an open-ended fashion, and thus should be interpreted to mean “including, but not limited to . . . ”. Also, the term “couple” or “couples” is intended to mean either an indirect or direct connection. Thus, if a first device couples to a second device, that connection may be through a direct connection, or through an indirect connection via other devices and connections.
“Fluid” shall mean a liquid (e.g., crude oil or gasoline) or a gas (e.g., methane).
A pair of transducers 120 and 130 is located on the circumference of the spoolpiece 100. The transducers 120 and 130 are accommodated by a transducer port 125 and 135, respectively. The position of transducers 120 and 130 may be defined by the angle θ, a first length L measured between transducers 120 and 130, a second length X corresponding to the axial distance between points 140 and 145, and a third length D corresponding to the pipe diameter. In most cases distances D, X and L are precisely determined during meter fabrication. Further, transducers such as 120 and 130 may be placed at a specific distance from points 140 and 145, respectively, regardless of meter size (i.e. spoolpiece size). Although the transducers are illustrated to be recessed slightly, in alternative embodiments the transducers protrude into the spoolpiece.
A path 110, sometimes referred to as a “chord,” exists between transducers 120 and 130 at an angle θ to a centerline 105. The length L of “chord” 110 is the distance between the face of transducer 120 and the face of transducer 130. Points 140 and 145 define the locations where acoustic signals generated by transducers 120 and 130 enter and leave fluid flowing through the spoolpiece 100 (i.e. the entrance to the spoolpiece bore).
Transducers 120 and 130 are preferably ultrasonic transceivers, meaning that they both generate and receive ultrasonic signals. “Ultrasonic” in this context refers to frequencies above about 20 kilohertz. To generate an ultrasonic signal, a piezoelectric element is stimulated electrically, and it responds by vibrating. The vibration of the piezoelectric element generates an ultrasonic signal that travels through the fluid across the spoolpiece to the corresponding transducer of the transducer pair. Similarly, upon being struck by an ultrasonic signal, the receiving piezoelectric element vibrates and generates an electrical signal that is detected, digitized, and analyzed by electronics associated with the meter. Initially, downstream transducer 120 generates an ultrasonic signal that is then received by upstream transducer 130. Some time later, the upstream transducer 130 generates a return ultrasonic signal that is subsequently received by the downstream transducer 120. Thus, the transducers 120 and 130 play “pitch and catch” with ultrasonic signals 115 along chordal path 110. During operation, this sequence may occur thousands of times per minute.
The transit time of the ultrasonic signal 115 between transducers 120 and 130 depends in part upon whether the ultrasonic signal 115 is traveling upstream or downstream with respect to the fluid flow. The transit time for an ultrasonic signal traveling downstream (i.e. in the same direction as the flow) is less than its transit time when traveling upstream (i.e. against the flow). The upstream and downstream transit times can be used to calculate the average flow velocity along the signal path, and may also be used to calculate the speed of sound in the fluid. Knowing the cross-sectional area of the meter carrying the fluid and assuming the shape of the velocity profile, the average flow velocity over the area of the meter bore may be used to find the volume of fluid flowing through the meter 101.
Ultrasonic flow meters can have one or more pairs of transducers corresponding to one or more paths.
The precise arrangement of the four pairs of transducers may be further understood by reference to
In some embodiments, the transducer housing 208 is metal such as low carbon stainless steel. In alternative embodiments any material capable of withstanding the pressure of the fluid within the meter, such as high density plastics or composite materials, may be equivalently used. In some embodiments the wall thickness of the transducer housing 208 is selected to compress slightly in response to the differential pressure between the fluid in the meter and the internal volume 310. The compression of the walls of the transducer housing 208 in these embodiments aids in holding the acoustic matching layer 212 in place. For example, the wall behind the acoustic matching layer deflects inward slightly, and the smaller inside diameter provides support to the acoustic matching layer to resist the lateral movement caused by the forces of fluid pressure within the meter. Moreover, during the process of bonding the acoustic matching layer 212 to the transducer housing 208, the housing 208 is stretched (within the elastic limit of the wall material) to accept the acoustic matching layer 212.
To aid in bonding the acoustic matching layer 212 to the transducer housing 208, in some embodiments the acoustic matching layer 212 has a meniscus 304 around the edge on the interior side 312.
The material of the acoustic matching layer 212 is one or more selected from the group: glass; ceramic; plastic; glass-filled plastic; or carbon-fiber filled plastic. Although some embodiments use 100% glass as the acoustic matching layer, alternative embodiments using plastic could have a glass content of 30% or less. Regardless of the material of the acoustic matching layer, the acoustic matching layer 212 provides acoustical coupling between the piezoelectric element 214 and fluid in the meter. In accordance with embodiments of the invention, the acoustic matching layer has an acoustic impedance between that of the piezoelectric element 214 and fluid within the meter. With the acoustic impedance of the matching layer between that of the piezoelectric element and the fluid in the meter, the quality of the ultrasonic signal is improved (e.g., larger amplitude and faster rise time). Glass is the preferred material for the acoustic matching layer since it has the desired acoustic impedance to provide good acoustic coupling while being strong enough to resist the pressure of the fluid within the meter so that the piezoelectric element can be isolated from the fluid in the within the meter. Comparatively, the acoustic impedance of a matching layer comprising substantially stainless steel is more than the acoustic impedance of the piezoelectric element, and therefore provides poor acoustic coupling. In some embodiments the acoustic impedance of the acoustic matching layer 212 is between about 1 and about 30 Mega-rayl (MRayl); or alternatively, between about 10 and about 15 MRayl.
When a transducer assembly 210 is inserted into the transducer housing 208, the piezoelectric element 214 (
The acoustic matching layer 212 has a thickness (along an axis shared with the remaining portions of the transducer housing 208) that in some embodiments is substantially equal to an odd multiple of one-quarter (¼, ¾, 5/4, 7/4, etc.) wavelength of the sound generated by the piezoelectric element 214. For example, consider a piezoelectric element 214 operating at a frequency of 1 MHz and an acoustic matching layer 212 with a speed of sound of 5,000 m/s. The wavelength of the sound in the matching layer is approximately 0.197 inches. In these embodiments the acoustic matching layer may be 0.049, 0.148, 0.246, 0.344, and so on, inches thick. A thinner acoustic matching layer gives better acoustical performance, but making the acoustic matching layer thicker enables the transducer housing 208 to withstand higher pressures. Picking the optimal matching layer thickness involves choosing the thinnest matching layer that can hold the highest pressures expected inside the meter.
To reduce electrical noise and double the drive voltage, it is often desirable to electrically connect the piezoelectric element differentially (discussed below), which means the portion of the piezoelectric element that abuts the acoustic matching layer may have an electrically conductive coating. If the acoustic matching layer is metallic, a thin electrical insulator is used between the metal and piezoelectric element 214 for electrical isolation. To address this concern, in some embodiments the acoustic matching layer 212 is an electrical insulator, thus reducing or eliminating the need for additional electrical insulation.
Attention now turns to the integrated transducer assembly 210.
In embodiments where the elongated outer housing 501 comprises a first portion 500 and second portion 502, the outside diameter of the second portion 502 at the crystal or distal end 518 is substantially the same as the first portion 500. However, the second portion 502 also comprises a reduced diameter portion 520, which telescopes within the internal diameter of the first portion 500, and thus has an outside diameter slightly smaller than the inside diameter of the first portion 500. In some embodiments, the length of engagement of the first and second portions 500 and 502 is approximately equal to the outside diameter, but longer and shorter engagements may be equivalently used. The outside diameter of the elongated outer housing 501 is slightly smaller than the inside diameter of the transducer housing 208, which helps ensure the piezoelectric element location is accurately known.
In accordance with some embodiments, the second portion 502 is made of plastic (e.g., Ultem 1000). In these embodiments the axial length of the second portion 502 is reduced (in comparison to the axial length of the first portion 500, which is preferably metallic) because the shorter length lowers manufacturing cost, but also when made of a plastic material the second portion 502 tends to absorb moisture and swell. Swelling of the second portion 502 is tolerable, and reducing the axial length of the second portion 502 enables removal of the transducer assembly 210 from the transducer housing 208 in spite of swelling.
Relative rotational movement of the first and second portions 500 and 502 and axial displacement are restricted by a pin 506 extending radially from the second portion 502 through an aperture 504 in the first portion 500. In some embodiments, three such pin and aperture combinations are used, but as few as one and greater than three of the pin and aperture combinations may be equivalently used. Alternatively, the second portion 502 may be designed to have a protrusion that interacts with the aperture 504 as an integral part of the second portion 502.
While the piezoelectric element 214 couples to and at least partially occludes the first end 503 of the elongated outer housing 501, electrical pin holder 508 couples to and at least partially occludes a second end 509 of the elongated outer housing 501. The elongated outer housing 501 first portion 500 may comprise connection key 514, which helps ensure the integrated transducer assembly is properly oriented for coupling with the connector 204 key slot. Electrical pin holder 508 may comprise a slot 515 which engages the connection key 514 preventing rotation of the electrical pin holder 508 within the elongated outer housing 501. Additionally, the electrical pin holder 508 may further comprise an anti-rotation slot 516 which, in combination with a tab on the transducer housing 208, keeps the integrated transducer assembly 210 from rotating in the transducer housing 208. The second end 509 of the elongated outer housing 501 has an internal diameter that is a sliding fit to a small outside diameter of the pin holder 508. The pin holder 508 may desirably be made from Ultem 1000, but any rigid, non-conducting material can be used.
A shoulder 600 in the elongated outer housing 501 abuts the piezoelectric element 214 to resist axial movement of the piezoelectric element, such as axial movement caused by forces imparted when the transducer assembly 210 is mounted within the transducer housing 208. The volume behind the piezoelectric element 214 comprises a back matching layer 602 (e.g., epoxy, powder-filled epoxy, rubber, powder-filled rubber), and serves several purposes. For example, the back matching layer couples the piezoelectric element 214, and one or more wires attached to the piezoelectric element 214, to the elongated outer housing 501. In particular, the mass of the back matching layer improves the acoustic output of the piezoelectric element 214 by reducing ringing and increasing bandwidth of the acoustic signal. In some embodiments, the length of the back matching layer (measured along the axis of the elongated outer housing) is selected such that the round trip travel time of an ultrasonic signal in the back matching layer 602 occurs at a time greater than the time of measurement of a received signal. For example, if the fourth zero crossing in the received signal is used as the measurement point, then the round trip travel time would preferably be greater than two cycles at the center frequency of operation of the piezoelectric element. Alternatively, the length of the back matching layer 602 is from about 1 to about 9 wavelengths of sound in the back matching layer at the center frequency of operation of the piezoelectric element. The appropriate length ensures that any reflected acoustic signals do not arrive at the piezoelectric element during the ultrasonic meter's signal transit timing.
Considering further the elongated outer housing 501 comprising a first portion 500 and second portion 502, the reduced diameter portion 520 of the second portion 502 comprises a shoulder 608. The shoulder is small enough to allow passage for wires through an aperture therein, and to allow an opening for injecting the back matching layer 602. The back matching layer may be injected with a syringe with a small plastic tip. Chamfers are provided on the ends of this shoulder 608 to ensure no sharp edge is created which could damage wires. The shoulder 608 is a location upon which a biasing mechanism (discussed below) may push when biasing the second portion 502.
In embodiments where the elongated outer housing 501 comprises a first portion 500 and second portion 502 that are allowed to move axially relative to each other, the transducer assembly 210 comprises a biasing mechanism, such as spring 610. The biasing mechanism biases the first portion 500 and second portion 502 away from each other along the common axis X. The force with which the biasing mechanism biases the first portion 500 and second portion 502 away from each other is, in some embodiments, from about 4 to about 12 pounds. In alternative embodiments, the biasing mechanism may be any mechanism to provide the biasing force, such as a washer, a piece of rubber, or combinations of springs, washers and/or pieces of rubber.
Spring 610 is slightly compressed against shoulder 618 during assembly and at least one pin (partially shown at 506) an aperture combination (
The pin holder 508 holds two connection pins 610 and 612 at the desired spacing and exposed length. The pins mate with the connector 204, providing electrical connection of the transducer assembly with the electronics of the meter. Electrical pin 610 couples to the piezoelectric element 214 by way of a first wire 611 that runs through the interior of the elongated outer housing 501 Likewise, second pin 612 couples to the piezoelectric element 214 by way of second wire 613 that also runs through the interior of the housing 501. In some embodiments, multi-strand copper wire with PTFE insulation is used for wires 611, 613, but other types of wire may be equivalently used. In order to hold the wires 611 and 613 in place, as well as possibly the resistor 614 (discussed below) and electric pin holder 508, an adhesive 609 such as epoxy is inserted through the epoxy fill port 612. In some embodiments, the connection pins 610 and 612 are robust gold plated brass pins which have solder connection pockets, but other pins may be equivalently used. Two different colors of wire insulation are used to ensure the correct polarity of the crystal faces and connection pin orientation with the connection key on the case are maintained during manufacturing. The wires are twisted during assembly to ensure that any induced electrical signals in the wires are equalized to avoid such signals from interfering with crystal impulses during measurement cycles.
A one mega ohm resistor 614 couples between the pins 610 and 612, thus coupling the two electrode plated faces (discussed below) of the piezoelectric crystal. This resistor 614 provides a short at low frequencies to discharge any electrical energy generated by mechanical shock or temperature changes during transportation or installation. At the high frequency (˜1 MHz) of operation of the transducer, the resistor 614 has virtually no effect on the electrical signal sent to or generated by the piezoelectric crystal. One lead of the resistor is insulated by insulation tubing to avoid shorting of this lead to the case during manufacturing. Alterative transducer designs may comprise additional electrical components within the integrated transducer assembly (e.g., inductors, amplifiers, switches, zener diodes, or capacitors). The use of these components may be individually or in many combinations.
The transducer assembly 210 design greatly simplifies transducer assembly installation and replacement, particularly at pipeline facilities where conditions (lightning, weather, and the like) are less than ideal. Referring to the flow diagram in
While various embodiments of this invention have been shown and described, modifications thereof can be made by one skilled in the art without departing from the spirit or teaching of this invention. The embodiments described herein are exemplary only and are not limiting. Accordingly, the scope of protection is not limited to the embodiments described herein, but is only limited by the claims which follow, the scope of which shall include all equivalents of the subject matter of the claims.